Destination: Davos: A Marathon Not A Sprint

January 24, 2012

This week, Barri Rafferty, senior partner and director, New York, is blogging from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

I’ve just arrived in Davos after an overnight flight and a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride. After making a new friend on the bus and checking in to the hotel, the adventure is already underway.

My hotel room view.

I was truly excited to be chosen to attend Davos and plan to take full advantage of all this event has to offer. As a first-time attendee, I reached out to many people to for advice, and here are some of the tips I was given:

  • Ketchum President Rob Flaherty has been my Sherpa, walking me through the schedule and explaining the types of sessions offered and what to expect. He also told me about the “boot check” alongside coat check – very important when you’re walking around on a snowy mountain.
  • Diana El-Azar, director of media and entertainment industries for World Economic Forum (WEF) helped me better understand and navigate the registration process, starting with open slotsand then prioritizing the initial six sessions you are allowed to register for ahead of time. She also explained the random process of private parties and assured me that, based on my profile, invites would comein. They have.
  • David Gallagher, Ketchum’s European CEO, recommended I attend sessions I find personally interesting and that will expand my thinking. Some of his favorite panels in the past were more offbeat topics. He said, “Use Davos to explore and expand yourself.” This is something I surely plan to do.
  • BBDO NY’s President and CEO, John Osborne, told me, “It is a marathon not a sprint.” Many other people also spoke about pacing myself. Realizing that breakfast can start at 7:30 a.m. and the Bollywood Party starts at 11 p.m., I can understand why. I also loved John’s practical advice for staying healthy, including “Shaking hands and hors d’oeuvres don’t mix.” I packed the Purell.

The WEF is extremely impressive in organization, and this year it has committed to a paperless meeting. The WEForum app, which I’ve downloaded to my iPad, is quite functional, allowing me to register for sessions, maintain a customized schedule, interact with other participants in a Facebook-style social area, and view maps of the conference center, bus routes and more.

I anticipate an exciting few days as my schedule already includes sessions on topics from Ensuring Food Security to Reshaping Healthcare Models to E-philanthropy to the Role of the Millennial Generation and Smarter Cities, I have a wide range of topics to soak in. And with networking being a key part of Davos, the party invites have come in from countries as diverse as India, Japan, Korea, Canada and Thailand, as well as companies like Microsoft, Applied Materials, Ernst & Young and Infosystems.

I am sure I have overpacked, since everything says business casual but every photo I saw of a woman showed her wearing a suit. Weather forecast calls for more snow throughout the week and cold. Wish me luck.

Barri Rafferty is Ketchum’s former CEO and current head of communications at Wells Fargo.